About year ago, my brilliant niece—who knows just exactly how I feel about Stephenie Meyer’s vampire books—posted a link to my Facebook page. To say I’m inspired by this level of the dissection of fiction (any fiction) is an understatement. :) And since another movie based on this lousy book series is about to release, it may be time for my Twilight rant.
You see, I have a bone to pick with Little, Brown (Meyer’s publisher). As an editor—as a publishing professional—I’m insulted that these books got so little editorial attention. I can say this because I have read all of them. (Admittedly I skimmed that last one because it was. So. Purely. Awful.) Stephenie Meyer’s developmental editor should hang her head in shame. So should her copyeditor.
Don’t get me wrong, Twilight (the first book in the series of four) has some redeeming qualities. It was a very honest depiction of an intellectual falling-in-love, I thought, and because intelligence is always what I’m attracted to, the initial story hooked me early. Aside from the epic love story, the premise was interesting (vampires who recognize that killing humans is wrong—“good” vampires, we’ll say), and Meyer has some ability to build suspense.
I also like the covers, though Meyer gets no props for those.
But on the whole, the books are crap. (Even Stephen King thinks so!) I don’t really blame Meyer; she can’t help it if she’s an amateur writer who got absolutely no help from her editor. In case I haven’t made myself plain, my friends, despite the millions of copies in print and the blockbuster movies, these books are just plain bad. Don’t waste your precious life.
How bad are they? Let me count the ways.
Bad romance: Edward breaks into the bedroom of a young girl without her knowledge. He stalks her, for heaven’s sake. The relationship is psychologically unhealthy from Bella’s standpoint too: she completely subverts her personality to please him.
Bad technique: Bella goes on and on and on not knowing why Edward is mad, yet readers already know why he is angry—because we know his character and Meyer telegraphs it through his body language. This is a violation of POV. We shouldn’t discover why Edward is angry until Bella does. Meyer constantly tells, rather than showing. (Show don’t tell is the first commandment in the Novelist’s Bible.)
Bad characterization: Meyer has said she left out a detailed description of Bella so the reader could “step into her shoes” (which sounds to me like something made up after the mistake was pointed out) but the fact is Bella also lacks a personality, goals, interests, and life experiences. The only thing we know about her is she’s clumsy, and that never truly made sense to me. She is weak, passive, and overly emotional. The books reek of melodrama.
Bad storytelling: The books move really, really slowly. They don’t utilize any aspect of modern story structure, which recommends we start out with some piece of action that will reveal the conflict to come. In the case of the protagonists, Bella and Edward, there is no conflict for them to overcome (the most obvious of which would have been for Bella to remain human). And due to the overwriting and repetition, the books are about twice as long as they need to be. Meyer should have been reined in after the first book. I can’t imagine why no one at the publishing house did so.
Bad fiction: It’s just one coincidence after another in Twilight-land. (Jacob imprints on Renesmee? Oh, stop.) There are continuity errors literally from page to page.
Bad research: It bugs me when Meyer writes that Edward grips the handles of two steamer trunks in one hand. (Steamer trunks? Really?) It annoys the snot outta me when Alice bribes a guard in a foreign city with an American one-thousand-dollar bill, when those bills have been out of circulation since 1969. I could go on and on, but my point is an editor should have questioned every single one of these details.
Meyer breaks the laws of her own universe in the last book. Worse, she breaks the rules of good YA, the first of which is the story stops at the wedding. Teens really don’t like reading about other teens doing the Mom Thing. Why didn’t her editor remind Meyer about her target audience, much of which is tweens? If I’m the mother of a middle-schooler, I don’t want her reading about an eighteen-year-old girl who gets all bruised up after some rough vampire sex, even if it was on her honeymoon. What were Meyer and her editor thinking?
Worst of all, I think, is there’s a whole generation of girls out there, some of them aspiring writers, who will be misled into thinking the Twilight series was good writing simply because it moved them emotionally (and sold a lot of copies). Twilight et al should have been better books. They should have been books that made girls think and grow. Because what’s the point otherwise?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”